VICTORIA FALLS – President Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to officially open the Zimbabwe Annual Mining Conference here on Friday, according to a statement released by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe today.

The conference starts today, running until Saturday, with a series of high-profile discussions including gold and platinum group metals symposiums, the Chamber of Mines said in its outline of issues due to be discussed at the AGM.

It lists Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister Winston Chitando, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and Chamber of Mines president, Batisai Manhando among key speakers to the conference that will see the election of a new presidium for the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe.

Ncube is expected to present a paper titled “Vision 2030; Zimbabwe’s macroeconomic targets and sectoral priorities for sustainable economic growth”, while Energy Minister Fortune Chasi’s presentation will explore government’s strategies meant to avert a power supply deficit that had affected the country this year.

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Mining industry executives joined international speakers and other delegates for the conference this morning, ahead of the election of new office bearers of the Chamber of Mines later today.

A new book on the mining industry will be launched at the conference, chronicling the evolution of the mining industry in Zimbabwe, according to Chamber of Mines CEO, Isaac Kwesu, who spoke to reporters in Harare last week.

Mnangagwa is expected to announce key measures meant to stop a sharp slide in mineral output recorded by the country in the first quarter.

This is key because mining generates most of the export earnings for the southern African nation, which faces a severe shortage of dollars that has led to a scarcity of fuel and medicines.

Kwesu said Zimbabwe’s mining sector was subdued in the first quarter due to a severe dollar crunch that affected production, with gold the most hit.

Some bullion miners had experienced recently introduced power cuts.

He said mines had during the first quarter to March faced delays in getting their dollar payments from the central bank.

Miners, including those of gold and platinum, are paid dollars for half of their output while the balance is paid in the local RTGS dollar currency.

Initially, miners faced delays of up to 12 weeks to get their US dollars but the time leg had been reduced to two weeks, although miners want to be paid in one week, Kwesu said.

“Preliminary figures indicate that the first quarter was not a good performing period for our mining industry as most key minerals recorded some negative growth,” Kwesu told reporters.

He expects production to improve as mining firms receive their dollars quicker and get more in local currency as the RTGS dollar continues to weaken.

Miners say they want to be allowed to keep 70 percent of their dollar earnings to allow them to import equipment and mining consumables, including fuel, in a timely manner.

Gold deliveries to central bank unit Fidelity Printers and Refiners, which buys all the country’s gold, declined to 6,5 tonnes from 7,3 tonnes during the January-March quarter.

Zimbabwe produced a record 33 tonnes last year and has set a target of 40 tonnes this year.

The mining chamber’s president Batsirai Manhando said mining companies were for now spared from the indefinite rolling power cuts, known locally as load shedding, throughout the country.

“There has been some loading shedding in some of the gold mining houses but not that significant to affect performance yet because this is a recent problem,” Manhando said.